There was a sense of the unknown ahead of England women’s first match after Commonwealth Games. They were in no mood to hold back, however, as a full-strength England outmuscled lowly Croatia 15-0 in Durham, with Hannah Martin scoring four.
England and Wales, who beat Slovakia 9-0, will now go head-to-head on Saturday, with the winner likely to progress to the 2023 EuroHockey Championships.
England were eight to the good by half-time, Martin starting the goal fest with a deflection from an Anna Toman penalty corner.
Grace Balsdon drag flicked into the top left hand corner before Tess Howard made it 3-0 from open play. She was on the end of Laura Unsworth’s pass at the top of the circle, turned and shot low to the right of the goalkeeper.
Martin got her second after 14 minutes, this time turning in a cross from Fiona Crackles from close range. Right at the end of the quarter England made it five with Giselle Ansley’s straight strike at goal from a PC:
Sophie Hamilton tapped in for six, Ansley made it seven with her second PC strike and the eighth came from Martin, who turned and undercut on the reverse stick high into the top left hand corner to complete her first half hat-trick.
A third quarter saw no relenting from England, with six goals in seven minutes.
Two came from Ellie Rayer, Lily Owsley and Izzy Petter, while Martin added her fourth and Howard her second. Toman added England’s 15th in the final quarter.
Elsewhere, Wales men took one big step towards qualification with a tight 1-0 win over Scotland through Gareth Furlong’s penalty corner strike, with Welsh keeper Toby Reynolds-Cotterill in the thick of the action to deny the hosts.
Scotland women beat France 2-0 in Dunkirk, while France men beat Ireland 4-1 in Dunkirk.
Both winners will be heavy favourites for the European A Division Championships.